When we’re laying comfortably asleep in our beds at night, and our bodies happily snooze away in Dreamland… our minds are churning like a frantic conveyor belt. Our minds, when we sleep, never truly rest. While we’re unconscious, our minds process information and “prepare” for any actions that could be made during the day. The brain also forms new memories, boosts creativity, and cleans itself up.
A lot of sleep experts (and even your best friends) will say “You need to get 8 hours of sleep” or “7 and 1/2 hours of sleep is required for maximum benefits of sleeping.” Bull-hockey. You should get as many hours of sleep as you need for you to feel at your optimum productive/happiness levels during the day.
However, many hours of sleep help you feel more like You, are the number of hours of shut-eye you should get each night. (I need at least 9 hours of sleep a night to feel good the next day.)
Not sleeping enough makes you more likely develop inflammation and drastically heightened blood pressure – both of which are associated with heart attacks, strokes, and premature aging. Also, your mind and body work in tandem to fight cortisol – the main hormone responsible for stress. A lack of quality sleep leaves you vulnerable to attacks from stress, which terrorises your immune system – potentially ruining both you and relationships with people you meet during the day. For now, let’s quickly look at several minerals and vitamins that help you sleep better.
Magnesium improves our oxygen and blood circulation, while relaxing our muscles and nerves. (Making it a seriously powerful mineral.) Foods high in magnesium are natural relaxants, helping you “deactivate” and put your body/mind into a state of submissiveness, ready for sleep.
Next time you’re in the grocery store, look for…
- Dark leafy vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard
- Bananas or melons
- Brown rice or black beans
Tryptophan is a serious powerhouse as an amino acid. What this means is that, when ingested, is turned into serotonin. Serotonin is one of the chemicals responsible for our happiness – and it’s been well-researched that a lack of serotonin plays its role in causing depression.
Apples, bananas, avocados, and peaches are all rich in tryptophan. Remember: tryptophan is an amino acid that, when fully converted into our system, promotes relaxation and helps us sleep. (That’s why your family members who eat turkey at Thanksgiving are a lot sleepier after eating – turkey is loaded with tryptophan.)
Serotonin is then converted into melatonin, which inspires euphoria and “feel good” feelings and help promote relaxation All of these wonderful things happen inside our bodies just because we take more tryptophan! Which foods have high levels of tryptophan?
B Vitamins are considered “super-vitamins.” There are different “B” vitamins; each one plays a different part in keeping your health functioning properly and supercharging your sleep quality. Certain B vitamins play a role in synthesising serotonin (which produces melatonin, remember?) and provide relief from diseases that potentially interrupt your sleep.
Here are just a few B vitamins and what they do for you:
Thiamine (B1) regulates the nervous system and increases your energy production. A lack of B1 causes physical weakness. Foods high in B1 include salmon or trout, lean pork, whole wheat bread and green peas.
Niacin (B3) is responsible for keeping your mental health at its peak, prevents mental confusion and decreases chances of memory loss. Look for these foods: cooked chicken breast, oil-roasted peanuts, grilled Portobello mushrooms and green peas.
Before we shortly move on to the list of foods you should avoid, let’s quickly re-cap some foods are worth buying the next time you’re at the grocery store:
- Spinach/Swiss chard
- Green peas
- Portobello mushrooms
- Chicken breast/turkey
Avoid These Foods If You Want an Undisturbed, Full Sleep (Every Night)
Foods high in fat cause daytime grogginess and interrupt a good night’s sleep – because of the acid produced in our stomachs. While these foods are healthy (and full of good fats), eating them immediately before bedtime is grounds for disrupting your sleep. Avoid the following high-fat foods:
1. Vegetable Chips
Believe it or not, these “healthy” chips contain around 15-20g of fat and 2-5g of saturated fat per serving/bag. Even if grabbing for one during the late evening (or “primetime hours” of the night) seems like a good idea – it isn’t.
Of course, nobody drinks coffee hoping to fall asleep. But several beverages (such as decaf coffee and some teas) contain hidden traces/small amounts of caffeine in them – which, like a surprise ninja, inexplicably do their intended par to keep you up far later than you anticipated.
Water itself is a tremendous source of hydration – which nourishes our skin, regulates our blood flow, and keeps us in optimal shape. (Not to mention that it tastes amazing.) However, everybody knows that the liquids we drink will have to be “evicted” from our bodies at one point. Unfortunately, drinking liquids before bedtime will wake you up.
4. Dark chocolate
Laden with caffeine – and we all know that caffeine should never be in your system hours before you go to sleep. Some therapists and nutrition experts recommend limiting your caffeine intake shortly after your lunch – as up to 25% of the caffeine will still be in your system by nighttime.
Therefore, it’s recommended you avoid these brands…
- And any dark chocolate candy bar.
5. Heavy Meals
Eating heavy meals at dinner fouls up your ability to sleep. Heavy meals like beef or chicken actually backfires. You simply cannot fall into a deep, relaxing sleep at bedtime if your dinner plate had a pound of chicken or beef on it.
(If you crave a night-time snack, consider light snacks such as a cup of cottage cheese (sprinkled with blueberries) or peanut butter on toast; these are foods high in tryptophan.)
While alcohol certainly puts you to sleep and inspires tiredness, it quickly metabolises throughout the night and actually keeps you up. Your quality of sleep also significantly diminishes.
Spices (and spicy foods) like curry or Sriracha sauce is guaranteed to keep you up, and certainly wake you up should you eventually fall asleep. Here’s why: spices cause heartburn. Nobody likes heartburn.
It’s also recommended you stop drinking liquids (or any foods containing water – such as watermelons, cantaloupe, strawberries, celery, etc.) before bed-time. The more water you consume, the quicker your bladder fills up and leads you to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Follow these lists, avoid the mentioned foods and introduce the suggested minerals and vitamins into your system. You’ll be seeing a more peaceful, prolonged and fulfilling night’s sleep in no time.